It seemed these things were popping up in multiple discussions as people like @Suzanne chased me about, so rather than continue the multiple hijacks, maybe putting them here will be more entertaining for everybody. All I ask is that people be kind, and perhaps answer questions in turn. These questions come from http://www.thinkatheist.com/forum/topics/mad-at-the-outcome-thought...
1. Why did you choose catholicism over all other religions?
Because it made the most sense to me on several levels. I of course can't rule out cultural bias, since obviously I'm a westerner and Roman Christianity is culturally pervasive. For me it was a conscious choice at some point, though I am not a convert. Interestingly, if I were not Catholic I'd be more inclined to Judaism than the Protestant faiths. Perhaps the shared intellectual depth of Judaism and Catholicism is a contributing factor.
2. Do you follow the decrees made by the Vatican?
The Vatican does not make "decrees". The Holy See serves as the administrative center of the worldwide Catholic community, and we do have some administrative rules like any community (our technical term for these is "merely ecclesiastical laws"). For the rest, all we do is teach.
3. Do you agree or disagree with contraception being available to those who would choose to use contraception, if they had access?
I'm not sure why I should care. Now sometimes when people say "being available" they mean that I should pay for it. I think that's a different sort of question that belongs more in the realm of public policy.
4. How do you choose which parts of the bible to follow, and not follow.
We don't "follow" the Bible, we read it and refer to it, the way anyone does with a favorite book or reference text. We try to "follow" God, perhaps, or the example of Jesus or other holy men or women, but not the Bible. In teaching things or exploring religious ideas, we refer to a wide range of writings and experiences, including long oral tradition, writings of various scholars, journal articles, encyclicals, consensus documents, conciliar writings, etc., much like any intellectual community.
5. Is purgatory in or out, these days.
It's a theory that had moderate but not universal acceptance some centuries ago. It's still referred to, but not anywhere near as widely as in its heyday. So it never quite rose to the level of Newtonian Mechanics in physics in terms of acceptance as a theory, and it's perhaps fading faster, but like Newtonian Mechanics it's still referred to in some contexts.
She chases you about because you duck, dodge and won't answer her questions.
You did notice that I answered her questions, right?
Why is Cardinal Law (whom you have expressed disgust towards) still a Cardinal? What does the fact that Cardinal Law is still a cardinal, say about the organization that allows him to remain a cardinal?
Oh, I suspect it says that the organization cares a great deal about the rule of law, and the rights of the accused to due process, much as the Commonwealth of Massachusetts chose not to prosecute Bernard Law for the same reason. Personally I also think it says that a few people in its leadership lacked courage. Justice is a virtue, too, as well as prudence and compassion, but it requires more personal courage to adhere to. It may also have been that we had a pope at the time who was dottering with Parkinson's Disease, and really unable to discharge his duties.
Law and processes to protect the accused are hard for all of us in cases where our emotions want us to run out and get a rope and have us an old-fashioned lynching. I certainly wanted to see the man jailed for life in Massachusetts, and was livid when they chose not to prosecute. At the time, I'm not entirely sure that if someone brought the rope I wouldn't tie the knot. That's probably why we need a strong culture of respect for law, due process, and the rights of the accused.
"Oh, I suspect it says that the organization cares a great deal about the rule of law"
Doesn't the Church make it's own internal laws? Where was that "rule of law" during the Inquisition, the conviction of Galileo, the extinction of the Templars, I could go on, and on, and on --
During which Inquisition? The Inquisitions were generally run under the authority of the secular leadership. The Spanish Inquisition, for example, was under the authority of the King.
Regardless, the rule of law doesn't mean that we always get it right. O.J. or George Zimmerman can be acquitted, SCOTUS can rule that corporations are people or that blacks are not. It just means that we think that having a process that tries to mitigate the human emotion of the moment and that protects the accused from arbitrary exercise of authority is a good thing.
Barack Obama professes to be Christian. Is he a secular leader or a religious one?
I'll grant that in the politics of various times, different leaders of the state wore their religion on their sleeves to a greater or less degree. I think the only genuine overlap in the west is in Great Britain, where the post-Reformation monarchy asserts leadership over both church and state.
I'm not sure we can exclude a voter preference for Christians, can we? You don't think U.S. politicians seek endorsements from religious figures the same way Ferdinand and Isabella did? Heck, even Vladimir Putin is tightly tied to the Russian Orthodox Church.
Civil power and religion are connected, civil power and commerce are connected, civil power and lots of things are connected. I'm not sure it follows that the Episcopal Church is responsible for actions of President Bush, even though he was Episcopalian, even if a few of their leaders and clerics endorsed him, and even if he claimed to do some things for religious reasons.
In civil law, responsibility only adheres to those who have true supervision authority - essentially those who have the power to hire and fire. The Episcopal Church didn't have the authority to fire President Bush, and the Pope didn't have the authority to fire the King of Spain.
It doesn't matter if they had authority over the president, they had influence over him. Which in some cases is better. If you have authority over someone, and you tell them to do something, then they can say that you told them to do so, but if you have influence over someone, then you can make them think it was their idea.
I'm not suggesting that the Episcopal Church guided Bushes' s actions, but he was a very devout believer, not to mention a D student at best, and a recovering alcoholic and recovering cocaine addict. He should have never been entrusted with a seat of power to begin with. I'm currently living in Texas, the previous two governors where George "Dubya" Bush, and Rick "Dubya2.0" Perry. Sure the economy in Texas is great, but the air smells like shit, there is a constant high pressure system covering the state which causes headaches and makes the weather almost unpredictable, and the temperature today reached 107 degrees. This is due to the fact that Texas has ZERO environmental policies. Why? Because both governors received "campaign contributions " cough*bribes*cough and where then suggested to eliminate the environmental policies. These same governors recieved visits from their pastors, and it was suggested that women's healthcare, gay marriage, and all of the other religious issues were "being prayed for to be 'fixed'" Texas is one of the most religious and capitalist states in the Union, and it's climate, wildlife, and people suffer for it.
RE: "I'm not sure it follows that the Episcopal Church is responsible for actions of President Bush, even though he was Episcopalian."
"I trust God speaks through me."
-- George W. Bush --
It is against the Texas Constitution to run for public office without first professing your belief in god. Google it, and see for yourself.
Damn, you're right. http://blog.chron.com/keepthefaith/2008/10/atheists-prohibited-from...
Damn, you're right."
Once in a while, I get lucky!